A once under rated cut, pork belly is making a come back; tender, succulent, and with crisp crackling it has masses of flavour. For too many years there has existed a brainwashing to believe that low fat and fat free was the way forward, conveniently forgetting that fat is a crucial dietary component. Essential for bodily warmth and the protection of vital organs, fat adds both flavour and texture to food and its luxurious richness produces a gratifying, sated sensation. Food writer, Jennifer McLagan dedicates an entire book to this very subject, arguing that with the advent of fat free eating, the population has steadily gained weight rather than reduced it. The key of course, is sensibility and moderation.

A once under rated cut, pork belly is making a come back; tender, succulent, and with crisp crackling it has masses of flavour. For too many years there has existed a brainwashing to believe that low fat and fat free was the way forward, conveniently forgetting that fat is a crucial dietary component. Essential for bodily warmth and the protection of vital organs, fat adds both flavour and texture to food and its luxurious richness produces a gratifying, sated sensation. Food writer, Jennifer McLagan dedicates an entire book to this very subject, arguing that with the advent of fat free eating, the population has steadily gained weight rather than reduced it. The key of course, is sensibility and moderation.

To be successfully roasted, meat requires fat. Without it, meat fibres will shrink, toughen and dry. Fat softens as it is heated, gelatinises, melts and bastes, accruing a juicy succulence with luscious flavour. An initial high oven temperature promotes crackling to crisp, followed by the reduction to a lower setting to enable the meat to cook evenly whilst flavours mingle and develop.

Begin by removing the joint of meat from the fridge to allow it to return to room temperature prior to cooking – an hour should easily manage this. For the fantastic crunch of crackling, the skin must be quite dry; free from all trace of humidity then generously sprinkled with sea salt, rubbing into all the cross-hatching. Sprinkle the flesh side with the juice of a lime, season and positioning in a baking tin atop sprigs of fresh thyme. Simplicity itself, but do allow the meat to rest before serving. Remove from the oven, loosely cover with kitchen parchment and there it shall remain whilst you prepare the accompaniment: an easy, leafy green salad. The soft yet bitter, slightly pepper notes of rocket makes an partner, perfectly counterbalancing the rich indulgence of roast pork belly.

Roast Pork Belly with Thyme

serves 4-6

  • 1.7kg pork belly, skin on
  • fine sea salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • black pepper
  • sprigs of fresh thyme

preheat the oven to 220C

  1. Using a shape knife, slash a criss-cross pattern over the skin of the pork belly. Sprinkle with sea salt, rubbing into all the crevices. Shake away any excess. Turn over the pork; the meat side now facing. Pierce the flesh with the tip of the knife then pour over the lime juice, seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

  1. Arrange sprigs of thyme over the base of a roasting pan, settling the seasoned pork, skin side up, on top. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 175C and continuing to cook for a further 2 hours. Remove and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.